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Rhamondre Stevenson Has Quietly Become One of the Best, Most Versatile Backs in Football

Nick Grace. Getty Images.

We live in a world where the once celebrated position of running back was supposed to be irrelevant. Where changing rules had evolved to the game to the point where ball carriers had long ago been put on the Endangered Species List, and by 2022 were expected to be extinct. 

It was 10 years ago that Trent Richardson was projected to end up in a display at the Smithsonian, as the last running back taken in the Top 10 of the draft. But the years since brought Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley. And while no one would be stupid enough to argue the position is what it was, say, 20 years ago - before Bill Polian executed his plan to make pass defense illegal - running backs have found a way to adapt to the changing ecosystem and survive to this day. 

In fact, teams are still building around them. And not just the aforementioned Top 10 picks. There are currently two young RBs in the league with over 90 carries and 6.2 YPA, Jacksonville's Travis Etienne, who was the 25th pick in 2021, and Chicago's Khalil Herbert, who was 217th in the same draft. 

And yet, if there's one young back from that same class who has been more impressive than those two in terms of his ability to do it all, it's the 120th pick, Rhamondre Stevenson. He has sneaky become one of the most versatile, valuable running backs in football, at any age. 

This is the kind of run we'd hoped he'd be able to pull off based on his size profile when the Patriots first took him out of Oklahoma:

We'd expected him to be using his size advantage to truck corners and blow up safeties. And use that skillset to block, like this one where he sprang Jakobi Meyers on a crucial 3rd & long:

What I don't think anyone anticipated was him possessing this agility to make cuts and leave defenders trying to tackle his shadow:

Most of all, what I can't conceive of anyone expecting out of Stevenson, was this level of production in the passing game. Running precision routes, getting open, securing catches and picking up YAC:

While I might have promised there'd be no math on this test, allow me to express Stevenson's performance this year in numbers form. Here's where he ranks among all running backs in the league with enough snaps to qualify, according to Pro Football Focus.

Rushing (minimum 90 attempts):

  • Yards per attempt: 7th, with 4.9
  • Yards after contact per attempt: 3rd, with 3.91
  • Touchdowns: 8th, with 4
  • Designed rushes of 15+ yards, 6th, with 7
  • Breakaway percentage: 6th, with 34.3%
  • PFF rushing grade: 7th, with 83.8
  • PFF overall grade: 4th, with 88.6

Receiving (minimum 29 targets): 

  • Yards per reception: 6th, with 6.8
  • Reception percentage: 3rd, with 88.9%
  • PFF receiving grade: 3rd, with 87.7

And because it matters a great deal, Blocking:

  • PFF run blocking grade: 5th, with 63.3
  • PFF pass blocking grade: 2nd, with 68.5

Aside from his deplorable lack of touchdown receptions, and the league leaders have just three, look over those figures and find me the weakness in Stevenson's game. Never mind. Save your energy. It's not there. There are bigger, stronger backs, and better pass catchers out of the backfield. But few if any guys are doing both to his level right now.

The consensus Most Versatile Back in the NFL is McCaffery. And with good reason. You'll get no argument from me. But as it stands, Stevenson has more YPA (4.9 to 4.7), more rushing TDs (4 to 3), fewer fumbles (0 to 1), a higher reception % (88.9% to 82.7%), and higher PFF grades across the board, including blocking. While McCaffery has the edge in YPR and receiving touchdowns. So there's that. 

The larger point being that even being able to compare these two speaks to what a revelation Stevenson has been. Still only in his second year. A guy who was overlooked in the draft but skipped the Patriots typical redshirt rookie season to contribute in a major way as their RB2, has now become not only their clear RB1, but the guy whom their entire offensive system runs through. And is now unquestionably among the best backs in professional tackle football.

Giphy Images.

As long as the league keeps producing guys like him, the running back position will survive forever.